Failed Your Theory Test? 7 Trusted Tips to Get You Back on Track

Last updated:

driving theory failure

It can be incredibly demoralising when you pour effort into preparing for your theory test, only to find out you’ve been unsuccessful. Frustratingly, for some learner drivers, the downfall is when something they’ve practised over and over again goes wrong on the day.

When it comes to your theory, it might be worth taking some comfort in cold, hard statistics. Government figures from 2015/16 show that of the 986,204 tests taken by men, there was only a pass rate of 47.7%. Meanwhile, among the women, only 51% of the 913,998 tests resulted in a shiny theory certificate at the end of it.

Without exception -- in data extending back a decade -- the girls have always had a considerably higher pass rate than the boys. But across the board, pass rates have experienced a heavy decline in recent years because theory tests have become tougher.

So: now that you’ve realised that there’s safety in numbers, what can you do to help boost your chances of passing a second time?

7 Tips to Get Your Confidence Back

  1. 1

    Look at the Feedback

    If you encountered problems during the multiple choice section of the theory test, it’s good to know that you will be given feedback on the questions you failed to answer correctly. In some cases, you may notice a recurring theme, where all of the questions you got wrong fall into one area -- such as road signs or braking distances.

    This is the information you need to take heed of the most, as it can be your golden ticket to a better result the second time round. Although it’s unlikely you’ll get the exact same questions, they’ll cover an equally broad range of topics.

    road signs test
    Watch for the same mistakes while doing mock tests and always read the commentary (Free Mock Tests)

    Unfortunately, owing to the video-based format of the hazard perception part of the theory test, no detailed feedback as such is given on where you went wrong here. However, if you clicked too early or too late, it’s likely you’ll realise the error yourself.

  2. 2

    Focus Your Revision Efforts

    Armed with the analysis of your weaker points, it’s time to return to soaking up as much theory knowledge as you can -- through books, the Highway Code, and observations during your continuing practical sessions. You should apply a laser-like focus on the areas which proved a problem in the first test, spending the majority of your time on furnishing yourself with inside-out knowledge of what you could be expected to answer next time. However, make sure you do devote a little energy to constantly refreshing yourself on theory in the topics you excelled at, too.

  3. 3

    Practise Time Management

    In some cases, it won’t have been your theoretical knowledge which caused the issue. It’s a sad truth that some of us just aren’t that good in exam rooms. And when you see a clock slowly ticking down, and you feel like you’re up against it, the stress can prove an immense distraction.

    There are 50 points available in the multiple choice part of the theory test, and you need 43 to pass. As you have 57 minutes, this equates to approximately 70 seconds per point. Try timing yourself to see whether you can keep to this pace -- and most importantly, never dwell on a question you find particularly difficult. You’re better off moving on and focusing your energy on the questions you can get right.

  4. 4

    Take a Breather

    It’s possible to book another theory test more or less immediately after learning you’ve failed. However, rules state you’ve got to wait a full 72 hours before taking it again.

    Even if you’re able to make a reservation this soon (many test centres have a waiting list), it might be advisable to cool your heels for a while, wait a couple of weeks, and take the time to reflect and revise. As each test costs £23 to take, the cost of repeated unsuccessful attempts can soon add up.

  5. 5

    Talk to Your Instructor

    Don’t be embarrassed to seek tips from your driving instructor when you next see them. They’re in a unique position because they will have seen your motoring capabilities and weaknesses first hand, and might be able to give you encouragement and tailored advice. The experiences of your friends and family can also be immensely helpful to draw off.

    driving instructor
    Your driving instructor can be the best asset especially while preparing for the Hazard Perception test

  6. 6

    Try a Different Revision Technique

    If you felt like you were just staring at the pages of a book in the run up to your test without soaking anything in, it might be time to change tack and move to a new method of learning. Thanks to the age of the smartphone and tablet, there are loads of interactive ways to absorb theory knowledge. Use the Theory Test Genius app on your iOS or Android.

  7. 7

    Keep Doing Practice Papers

    Last but by no means least, remember: we have a range of theory tests based on real questions on TopTests.co.uk, spanning all levels of difficulty.

    mock tests
    Our theory test questions and answers are randomized every time you re-take the test, so you can be sure you’ll get a new one every time (Free Mock Tests)